Notebook: Rockets 121, Kings 100

Posted Apr 15, 2013 6:19 AM

Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: The Houston Rockets took the next step toward locking up the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, crushing the Sacramento Kings 121-100 in their regular-season home finale Sunday at Toyota Center.

James Harden scored a game-high 29 points on 11-for-16 shooting and dished out nine assists to lead the Rockets (45-35), who moved into a tie with the Golden State Warriors for sixth place in the West by winning for the sixth time in their last eight games. Houston, which holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Warriors, controls its destiny and can clinch the No. 6 spot by closing the regular season with two more victories. Jeremy Lin netted 15 points and Chandler Parsons added 13 points, five rebounds and five dimes in his return from a four-game absence because of a strained right calf.

Travis Outlaw paced the Kings (28-52), who have lost six of their last seven games overall, with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Cole Aldrich finished with career highs of 12 points, 12 boards and four blocks off the bench, while Isaiah Thomas distributed a season-best 10 assists.

QUOTABLE: "It's about building momentum and maintaining momentum. I think we've done a good job our last 15 or 20 games. We've been playing a high level of basketball, and we've won a lot of games. Like I said earlier, rhythm is really really fragile. You can't just turn it on and off like that."

-- Jeremy Lin on the importance of carrying a strong conclusion to the regular season into the postseason

THE STAT: Sacramento, which fell to 1-22 this season when its opponent drains at least half of its shot attempts, allowed the Rockets to average 114.7 points on 50.8 percent (131-for-258) shooting, 29.7 assists and 86.0 field-goal attempts in three meetings this season.

TURNING POINT: The Kings' bench played with great energy in the second quarter to help Sacramento recover from a sluggish start, but it was not long before the Rockets seized control by tightening on the defensive end. Houston held the Kings scoreless over the final 3:17 of the second, forcing a pair of turnovers and blocking three shots, as it ripped off a 14-0 run to extend its lead to 62-44.

QUOTABLE II: "It was just real positive just how my calf really didn't get too stiff, didn't get too sore, even when I came in and out of the game. ... I think it's really important for me to play a lot of minutes [before the playoffs begin]. I hope coach [Kevin] McHale is watching this."

-- Chandler Parsons on his calf and his status for Monday night's tilt with Phoenix

HOT: Harden quickly put his poor performance against one the league's top defenses in Memphis behind him by lighting up one of the NBA's most porous defensive clubs. Harden looked sharp from the beginning, as he carved up Sacramento for 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting and five assists in the first half. The fourth-year guard has posted 64 20-point outings this season, the most by a Rocket since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994-95.

NOT: Kings guard Marcus Thornton did not provide his usual scoring punch off the bench, missing all six of his shot attempts in eight-plus minutes before coach Keith Smart benched him for the remainder of the contest. Thornton has connected on only 25.0 percent (4-for-16) of his field-goal attempts over the last two games.

GOOD MOVE: With Sacramento seemingly uninterested in protecting the ball and hustling back to defend in transition, the Rockets constantly ran the court. Houston utilized its transition game as effectively as it has all season in the first half, when it netted a season-high 27 fast-break points on 11-for-13 shooting.

QUOTABLE III: "They were a much faster basketball team than we were."

-- Keith Smart

BAD MOVE: DeMarcus Cousins received his 16th technical foul of the season in the first period for an unnecessary shove to Houston's Greg Smith. By rule, Cousins will be suspended for Monday's meeting with Oklahoma City if the league does not rescind official Violet Palmer's call. Cousins told the media after the game Palmer later apologized to him, a good sign he will be available Monday.

NOTABLE: Parsons wore a red protective sleeve on his leg. ... Houston won 15 of its final 19 home games to finish the regular season 29-12 at Toyota Center. ... The Rockets improved to 14-2 this season when they score at least 25 fast-break points. ... Houston recorded its 29th 60-point half of the season, pouring in 62 points over the first 24 minutes. ... The Rockets blocked a season-high 12 shots, led by rookie Terrence Jones' career-best five rejections. ... Sacramento has connected on at least six 3-point attempts in 26 consecutive games. ... The Kings have lost in 10 of their last 12 visits to Houston. ... Sacramento fell to 4-45 this season when its opponent shoots a higher percentage from the field.

UP NEXT: For the Kings, Monday @ Oklahoma City, Wednesday vs. L.A. Clippers. For the Rockets, Monday @ Phoenix, Wednesday @ L.A. Lakers.